Attention to detail second to none.
You’re probably wondering why I haven’t reviewed Better Call Saul lately. (Maybe not.) This review of Nailed is only a day late, but I skipped last week’s Fifi and Inflatable the week before.
Partially, this is because I had bronchitis, and then I got my taxes done, and then I had to go back and get my taxes more done. Partially, though, these last few weeks of Better Call Saul have been hard to write about.
Don’t get me wrong, I still thoroughly enjoy the show. These are deftly-drawn characters, the cast is terrific, the writing is sharp, and the visuals are great. All of that is wonderfully true. However, the show isn’t nearly as witty as it once was. Go back several weeks, or go back to last season, and you’ll find my reviews are peppered with great quotes from each episode. I don’t have any great ones for the past three weeks, none of Jimmy’s signature patter. The quote above, from Mesa Verde, is cutely ironic, not witty.
The previous two weeks have been chess piece episodes, moving everything around on the board, for both Jimmy and Mike. And Jimmy and Mike have been rigidly paralleled. Consider that last week we had a long Jimmy segment of a (supposedly) voiceless man using a wheelchair, while Mike has been observing Hector Salamanaca—who, in Breaking Bad, ends up voiceless and using a wheelchair.
The fact is, though, that the slow, steady undermining of Jimmy and Mike’s moral limits so that they can eventually become the characters we know from Breaking Bad is, well, slow and steady. (I’ll add, again, that having watched Breaking Bad is by no means necessary to enjoy this show, but I’m not going to treat Breaking Bad as a spoiler for this show either.)
But now we’re up to Nailed, and Nailed is a better episode, albeit still fairly rigid in its parallel of Mike and Jimmy. The theme this week is sabotage. We saw each man prepare for that in Fifi, and now we see the results—nailed hose and transposed digits. Each is successful, but each also has unintended consequences.
For Mike, the unintended consequences were heartbreaking. He’s a pretty low-key guy, our Mike, so buying a round for everyone was sweet. He doesn’t let himself show happiness much, but he was happy about what he pulled off. Then he found out a Good Samaritan was murdered as a result. The look on his face told the whole story.
For Jimmy, the consequences are a bit of a cliffhanger. This episode was stronger for Kim than anyone else. In her confronting Chuck, and then revealing to Jimmy how much she knows, her character was more clearly and powerfully drawn than anything we’ve seen before. For Jimmy, bribing Lance the Copy Guy was a Hail Mary pass, and it was working, and then Jimmy watched as Chuck fainted and hit his head in a way that looked very scary.
I haven’t researched the causes of psychosomatic illness, but I don’t know that showrunner Vince Gilligan has either. Certainly Chuck’s illness manifests as a way of having enormous control over everyone around him. He can run Ernesto like a machine, he can make everyone change their behavior, and every time he’s uncomfortable, he can retreat into his madness. Now, I don’t think he enjoys it (although I bet he enjoys the hoops Ernie jumps through). I think that being out of control is so extraordinarily painful that any instance of it makes him symptomatic. The less he is able to control Lance, the more the fluorescent lights affect him. If Lance had caved, Chuck would have been remarkable symptom-free, but losing to Jimmy in any way is impossible to accept.
In fact, it’s impossible for either brother to accept, and I think Jimmy will find the need to help Chuck impossible to resist. He could call 911 anonymously, of course, but I doubt that’s what will happen. It’s 2002, you could probably still find a pay phone then.
What do you think, Basketcases? Did you miss me?